The state of our society today forces us to think about its ability to move India to a position of leadership in the committee of nations. Commensurate with the size of our country, its gigantic population, its antiquity, its economic clout we should have been a vibrant player on the world stage. But in reality we are anything but that.

Today we are a huge market for world products ranging from cosmetics to defence items. We keep on importing technologies and are proud that we can operate them efficiently. We are a nation of operators. Even as the economy of our country has expanded many times over, the vast majority of our population are economically where they where at the time of independence, only the rupee value has changed.

Today also our cities, towns and villages are full of vast areas within them which are devoid of appropriate civic facilities. Today also nearly 50-60% of our population have no toilets and defecate in the open. Drinking water and electricity is not available to nearly half our population or more. Pucca road connectivity to thousands of our villages does not exist. In municipal areas the condition of roads is usually pathetic more so after every monsoon.

There is dirt all around us in our cities and towns. Government hospitals and schools are best avoided unless there is no choice. The general infrastructure is of a very low standard. There is chaotic traffic on our roads. Trains are jam packed in the unreserved classes. state transport buses are a pain to travel in.

One can go on and on but that is not the purpose. One does not want to be seen as being pessimistic, because by all accounts the country has achieved lot of progress in all fields. However the question to be asked is could the fruits of the progress have been more equitably distributed among the citizens and could the kitty have been much larger? What is responsible for this?

At the time of our independence struggle, to our extreme good fortune, it was led by a galaxy of great persons who were equally very effective leaders. They understood the culture and ethos of our country and its people very significantly. All this helped them to connect with the people in a way no one has been since Nehru's passing away. The quality of our political leadership has been going downhill ever since. But is it limited to only politics that we are suffering. In fact there is a tremendous lack of leadership in all fields in the country today.

Let us look at the reality and the myth of our society.

The Myth :

Pre and post independence the Indian society basked in the glory of being led by leaders having both integrity and vision. They were selfless too and while working towards a goal were not sure of achieving them in their lifetime. Yet they worked and led with zeal and passion. The society was as ridden with timeless characteristics of cast and communal divisions. The fight for freedom and its attainment through non violence raised India's stock high in the world. Its leaders especially Gandhi and after independence Nehru were highly revered, listened to and commanded far more respect than the India of that time deserved. This led the the intelligentsia to believe that India was a country which had influence and had acquired its place in the world. An exaggerated sense of grandeur set in and this was to result in failures much later on.

The Reality :

In reality Indians were and are as divided into various casts and divisions as they were throughout history, all through the independence struggle and after it also till today. Education has not changed the mindset of people. Indians are today also as divided as they were earlier on many decades ago. Cast and communal divisions are practiced with associated discrimination today also but with a finesse. A third rate person of one caste is preferable over a first rate person of another caste. Persons of one religion find it difficult to get house on sale or rent in areas where other religion dominates. Intercaste marriages can lead to honour killing even in cosmopolitan cities. Merit is no longer being encouraged. 

The Result :

In the background of the myth that we have a status which in reality we did not deserve our leadership coolly exploited the situation. They did not exert themselves to create a vision of India were its citizens would get good governance and minimal civic facilities as a matter of right. The  citizens also basked in reflected glory of the nineteen forties and fifties till the Chinese taught us a lesson in 1962. We still did not learn a lesson. Cover up is one great contribution of our governments. Truth should not come out.

Instead of micro planning to start from the individual needs and then go higher, we started the opposite way. Macro projects were announced and executed. Scarce finances were directed in setting up a large public sector which created a class of employees who exploited the system gainfully. The fiscally weak private sector did not cover itself with glory either. They connived to continue the license raj so that they could prosper without competition. Social justice was sought to be dispensed through reservations. Even third generation affluent persons children are enjoying caste based reservations. They can never be done away with. Instead of building a merit based society we have successfully created a non merit based society. The more duffer one is the higher is his chance of getting state benefits. One with merit has to fight for his place or accept a lower station in life or emigrate.

Why were corporations which would build toilets in thousands created so that every house had one. Some of you may laugh but this showed how we do not care and tolerate. Why were the villages not connected with good quality roads. Again misplaced emphasis. Why were not good quality school buildings made. 

After all Gandhiji had said that whenever money has to be spent ask will it wipe the tear from the eye of the poor. If making basic facilities reach the poor was the objective then the strategies would have been created, If the vision was to treat every Indian humanely the where withall could have been worked out.

The vision decides the objective and it decides the strategies to be adopted. Service to the poor was always a lip service. Funds earmarked for them were to be siphoned off. In a tolerant society a large number of public officials and politicians allegedly enriched themselves. Such persons got repeatedly elected or corrupt officials got promote and both got to keep their illegal earnings. Corruption was seen as being a successful enterprise and it soon multiplied itself in the society.

Today we are all highly suspicious of government programs simply because we do not have good and inspiring leaders to oversee their executions. making money is the objective today. The politicians get votes and in turn the voters get scams and empty promises.

Even six decades after independence we have failed to provide basic facilities to our citizens like sanitation, drinking water, electricity, health care, job related education, good roads etc. We are satisfied in small achievements and have lost the ability to think big. Pygmy leaders and planners have still smaller pygmy visions. Even they are not achieved in full. 

How long will we have to suffer poor leadership, conniving officials and rampant corruption perhaps even god cannot tell. But we must go out and cast our vote in the coming elections hoping yet again that a good government will deliver. 

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